HARRIS, Moses (1730-c.1788)
Plate XXXVIII fromThe Aurelian. A natural history of English moths and butterflies
[XXXVIII] London: 1778 [plates watermarked 1810]. Hand-coloured engraving. Loss to right margin skilfully restored. Sheet size: 15 x 10 1/2 inches. Plate mark: 11 3/4 x 9 1/4 inches.
A fascinating plate depicting several butterflies and moths and their pre-winged forms from 'a timeless classic' and the 'most celebrated of all the early books about butterflies and moths' (Salmon) in exceptionally bright and fresh condition.
Lisney held that Harris was 'one of the most outstanding authors of entomological literature during the eighteenth century.' The present work is en example and displays a beautiful balance between accurate and innovative observation and the highest artistic merit. 'Harris began to take an active interest in entomology about the age of twelve and ... was an accurate and original observer. He was, it is believed, the first to draw attention to the importance of wing neuration [the arrangement or distribution of nerves] in the classification of lepidoptera and upon this principle he arranged the species in his published works, illustrating them in colour with a high degree of accuracy. Harris certainly contributed much to the knowledge of the science and was one of the leading entomologists of his century. He was also a miniature painter of no mean accomplishment' (Lisney p.156). 'Moses Harris did much to encourage entomology at a time when the original dynamism of the age of Ray and the first Aurelian Society was waning. He was probably the prime mover in founding the second Aurelian Society ... and in the unsurpassed plates of The Aurelian he left a timeless classic to future generations' (Salmon p.117).
Hagen I, p. 341; Lisney 233; Nissen, ZBI 1835; Salmon The Aurelian Legacy (2000) pp.115-117.